How to give CPR to a baby/infant

Hand Position CPR on a baby


14th April 2017, updated on 16th June 2020

Once you've determined that a baby/infant is not breathing normally, and CPR is needed, then how do you go about this?

Infant CPR

How to determine that a baby/infant is really not breathing?

We'll go over DR. ABC (Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation) in another 'How to ... Guide'.
This page has not been created to replace proper learning of first aid and CPR, but only as a reminder.
It is not there to replace proper, face to face training and lots of hands-on practice to learn this vital, life-saving skill. If you'd like to do that, please book yourself on one of our first aid training courses.

Continuing this blog, we are assuming this infant really needs CPR. 

What age is a baby or infant?

The age of a baby or infant is 0 - 1

For paediatric first aid purposed, the term baby and infant mean the same. We will be using the term baby and infant interchangably in this Guide.

A baby is classed as aged 0 - 1. After that, we will treat the person as a child, for first aid purposes.

Give five (5) rescue breaths first

The difference in the likely cause of cardiac arrest between an adult and a child or infant

There are differences between giving CPR to an adult and an infant. First of all, there is a difference between the reason WHY their hearts have stopped. Usually, if an adult goes into cardiac arrest, this is caused by a failure of the heart. Which means there is still oxygen within their blood stream, and once we give CPR, that oxygen will be transported throughout the body, to the cells.

However, the heart of a baby or child usually stops because there's been an issue with their breathing. This means that their little body is already short of oxygen, so their cells are desperate for it.

This is why we give infants and children five (5) rescue breaths first, before commencing CPR. And if we're on our own and need to leave them to make that all-important call to the emergency services, we give them one (1) minute of CPR before we leave them. That is five (5) rescue breaths and then three (3) cycles of 30 compressions to 2 breaths.

Head tilt and chin lift

Infant Head Tilt and Chin Lift
Infant Head Tilt and Chin Lift
The Head Tilt and Chin Lift procedure moves the tongue away from the back of the throat

First, though, you need to ensure that the infant's airway is open. To do this, put one hand on his or her forehead. Then put the index finger of the other hand under his or her chin (on the bony part, we don't want to throttle the little one!). Then, very gently, tilt the infant's head up.

This moves the infant's tongue away from the back of the throat, where it could be blocking the airway.

Rescue Breaths

For rescue breaths, cover the infant's mouth and nose
How to give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a baby

Open your own mouth wide, and put it over the infant's mouth and nose. Breathe gently into the infant's mouth and nose. Make sure you maintain the head tilt and chin lift while you are doing this, so the tongue doesn't stop the air from going into the lungs.

Give the infant 5 gentle breaths, and watch his/her chest rise.

Chest Compressions

How to give CPR to a baby

Next, we need to give 30 chest compressions. Place your index finger and your middle finger together in the centre of the infant's chest, and press down hard. You need to go a third of the depth of the chest, which will be about 4 cm or 1.5 inches. Repeat this 30 times, at a speed of about 100 - 120 per minute.

One easy way of getting the right speed is to count the seconds, saying 'one hundred' press down 'and one' press down, 'one hundred' press down 'and two' press down, 'one hundred' press down 'and three' press down, and so forth, till you get to one hundred and fifteen.

Full CPR - Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation

Having given 30 chest compressions, now give the little one two (2) rescue breaths. Then continue giving 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths, till medical help arrives and tells you to stop.

Give 1 minute of CPR if on your own

If you're on your own, give the infant one minute of CPR before going for help. That is about 3 cycles of 30 compressions to 2 rescue breaths (after having given those 5 initial ones). Unlike for an adult, where getting help and an AED as soon as possible are absolutely vital, and we have to call 999 or 112 before we start CPR.